A group of young boys open their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in the Church of God church in Masaka

Record year for shoebox giving in Campbell River

This year’s community effort is one for the Operation Christmas Child history books

This year’s community effort is one for the Operation Christmas Child history books.

More people than ever before packed and dropped off a shoebox full of Christmas gifts for children living in poverty.

Deana Longland, Campbell River’s Operation Christmas Child coordinator, said 1,656 shoeboxes were received at Campbell River’s Collection Centre – Discovery Community Church.

That number is a record for the Campbell River area and is a significant increase over last year’s tally of 1,480 shoeboxes.

“Every year it increases by about five per cent; it goes up by about 15 or 20 shoeboxes,” Longland said. “This year it’s up 176 – that’s over 10 per cent. It’s the biggest jump ever.”

Longland said this year’s output can be partly attributed to all of the surrounding communities that contributed, including Gold River, Sayward, Tahsis, Port Alice and Port McNeil.

But she said this year in particular seemed to generate a broader interest in the project and talk of Operation Christmas Child spread through the community.

“It was just incredible to see the love and the giving of people wanting to help strangers,” Longland said.

All of the shoeboxes collected were loaded on to a delivery truck last week and shipped to Calgary where they will be checked over and prepared for delivery to children living around the world.

The shoeboxes will be distributed to children in either El Salvador, Haiti, Guatemala, Venezuela, Guinea, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Ukraine, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau or Sierra Leone.

Operation Christmas Child is an initiative of the charitable Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse, whose army of volunteers will hand-deliver the shoeboxes to children living in the midst of poverty, disease, war and natural disaster.

Since 1993, when Samaritan’s Purse adopted Operation Christmas Child, more than 135 million shoeboxes have been distributed to children worldwide.

Last year, Canadians packed more than 730,000 shoeboxes.